Maybe it was the long series against the Oklahoma Thunder. Maybe it was the way the team was built. Maybe they never believed they could win in the first place. But the Houston Rockets never showed up for game five against the Lakers that saw Los Angeles move on to the conference finals, while the Rockets move out of the bubble.
They were outplayed in every aspect of the game after they were able to steal one from LeBron and friends earlier in the series. Shooting. Rebounding. Defense. It’s like they just never believed they could win. They were unmotivated. They never seemed to really care. And that’s a big problem.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook never found their groove and they’ll have to answer the hard questions heading into next season. Are they playing for themselves and not the team? Why can’t they find their place? The critics will instantly jump to the “hero ball” aspect of the two’s respective games and they might be right.
What about Mike D’Antoni? Has he coached his last game with the Rockets?
D’Antoni will probably have a job somewhere in the NBA next year. People still believe his offense is the future in this league despite “the bigs” proving they can solve his puzzle year after year. Shooters go cold. Big guys never get shorter.
This shouldn’t be viewed as a eulogy for the Rockets. They’ll be back in the playoffs next year. But their window has closed. They need to make some moves to force it back open again.